Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Something here still grates against my sense of logic. Something about the Word becoming flesh, something about God being incarnated as a man, gnaws and scrapes at what I understand to be logical. This brings me back to what I was saying about story. Logic plays a supporting role to a certain extent, in a certain manner (which I have yet to fully work out), but it does not define the story. It does not make the story what it is, indeed, I might even argue that logic is incomprehensible outside of story...I agree. Logic is just one thread of the whole tapestry as we look at the gospel story. The story is ***vastly*** richer than logical propositions. I cannot agree with you more that logic does not define the story. In the vast richness of the story, logic is woven in that intricate rich tapestry. Imagine it as a certain kind of silver thread in this very rich tapestry, among all the other threads that are woven together. Pull out any of the threads and you loose the tapestry, it falls apart. But woven together by God, this rich tapestry is beyond any other tapestry that humans could create. And looking just at the thread of logic in the tapestry does not give us the tapestry; in fact, just tracing that logic thread alone will look bizarre and nonsensical, just as tracing any of the other threads alone will look bizarre and nonsensical.
I've been emphasizing logic in my blogs simply because I see a deemphasizing of logic it in so many places. Because of that, it appears I place logic above everything else. That is not what I wish to say. What I am saying is that logic is indispensable, as are the other facets of the gospel story. Remove logic, you rip the fabric of the gospel tapestry; just as you remove any of the other threads you rip the fabric of the gospel tapestry. Overemphasize or underemphasize the logic thread you distort the gospel tapestry, just as you overemphasize or underemphasize any other thread you distort the gospel tapestry.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Jared wrote an excellent justification for using logic (although I don't think he is convinced by this argument). I will repeat it, modifying it some.
Logical rationality is a fundamental characteristic of the nature of God. Aspects of this part of his nature show themselves in his orderliness, immutable, and his consistency. The human nature has some communicable attributes that are shared from the divine attributes because we were created in God's image. Included in these communicable attributes is logical rationality.
Logic is an aspect of logical rationality. It is inherent in logical rationality. It is implicitly used by all humans because their human nature possesses logical rationality. Only God uses logical rationality perfectly. Humans use it imperfectly, in great part because of the Fall of mankind has corrupted the minds of humans. However, logical rationality is still present in humans in spite of the Fall.
Logic is a system of identifying some forms of logical rationality. As a human endeavor, it is subject to error. However, of all the human developed systems of reasoning, standard propositional logic is one of the closest systems to reflect the logical rationality of God.
There are limits to logic. Some of the most significant discoveries of the twentieth century centered around Kurt Godel's theorems of incompleteness. In certain kinds of infinite systems of a certain kind of complexity, we cannot specify a system that is simultaneously complete and consistent. In other words, in these kind of systems, there are logical propositions that
- We can either never know whether they are true or false, or,
- If we we can completely determine the logical state of every proposition stated within the system, there will be some propositions that are true and false, at the same time, in the same sense.
Therefore, in those kind of logical systems, we either have to be satisfied with incompleteness (never being able to arrive at the logical truth of some statements), or inconsistency (there are contradictory statements).
What does this have to do with God? First of all, I have not seen a proof that God fits within the conditions of Godel's theorems. Secondly, I am extremely wary of any approach that looks at God with contradictions. I'll deal more with that below. Thirdly, if Godel's theorem does fit with God, I would rather look at our knowledge as being incomplete (which we know already that our knowledge is very incomplete about God) than have God being inconsistent (as Godel defines inconsistency).
The reason I am wary of contradictions with God is that given the corrupt human nature, we will allow a certain kind of irrationality into our thinking. We will accept inconsistent thinking, and view God as being inconsistent. That removes a constraint in human noetic thinking. It allows for excuses for bad thinking about God. It removes those thoughts from logical rationality, which we received from God's logical rationality. It shelters and isolates those thoughts from rational critiques. It moves thoughts more in a subjective area; it becomes less objective.
Rather than asserting contradictions about God, I would rather assert insufficient knowledge. For instance, how does human responsibility work in God's sovereignty? That is an area we have insufficient knowledge. Where Scripture is clear and we can understand what Scripture says without contradiction, we can go there. But pushing beyond where Scripture is not clear, or pushing into contradictions are areas of great problems and danger. Hyper Calvinists push into those areas. Arminians, with their theories of God looking down time to elect people also push into these areas. Where the Bible is silent, and there is no clear non-contradictory deductive reasoning from what is stated in Scripture, those are areas I want to stay away from.
But, some might ask, what about those Scriptures that clearly teach contradictory ideas? In my humble opinion, this is where interpretations are forced to lead to contradictions. It is much safer to say that if you interpret those passages as contradictory, or teaching contradictions, then your knowledge is wrong in some aspect of those passages. It is safer to say your knowledge is incomplete, that you don't understand, than to assert contradictions -- because of the dangers I mentioned above.
(Hebrews 2:17-18 ESV) Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Q. 48. How did Christ humble himself in his life?
A. Christ humbled himself in his life, by subjecting himself to the law, which he perfectly fulfilled; and by conflicting with the indignities of the world, temptations of Satan, and infirmities in his flesh, whether common to the nature of man, or particularly accompanying that his low condition.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
(John 1:14, 18 ESV) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
Q. 47. How did Christ humble himself in his conception and birth?
A. Christ humbled himself in his conception and birth, in that, being from all eternity the Son of God, in the bosom of the Father, he was pleased in the fullness of time to become the son of man, made of a woman of low estate, and to be born of her; with divers circumstances of more than ordinary abasement.
Friday, December 23, 2005
(Philippians 2:6-8 ESV) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Q. 46. What was the estate of Christ’s humiliation?
A. The estate of Christ’s humiliation was that low condition, wherein he for our sakes, emptying himself of his glory, took upon him the form of a servant, in his conception and birth, life, death,
Thursday, December 22, 2005
(Acts 15:14-16 ESV) Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, …’”
Q. 45. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Definition: Logical Contradiction -- Two propositions are said to contradict each other when they are assert something is both true and false, at the same time, in the same sense or relation.
Definition: Inconsistency -- (Taken from Metalogic) A set of statements, where all possible interpretations result in at least one set of propositions that are either direct or indirect logical contraditions.
Definition: Birth, with respect to the Son of God -- The person of the Son of God, prior to conception, had a divine nature but did not have a human nature. In conception, the person of the Son of God recieved the complex of attributes of the human nature. The person of the Son of God was born 9 months later.
Premise 1: The divine nature of the Son of God has had a continuous existence throughout eternity.
Premise 2: The human nature of the Son of God had its starting point at conception.
Definition: The Son of God is unborn only in the following sense -- the divine nature has had a continuous existence throughout eternity. The person of Christ also has had a continuous existence throughout eternity, but only the complex attributes of the divine nature has existed in the person of Christ throughout all eternity.
What are other people's definition for these terms?
(Hebrews 9:14, 28 ESV) how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. … so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Q. 44. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be a reconciliation for the sins of his people; and in making continual intercession for them.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Contradictions are one of the primary ways we can know we don't have the truth. Consider the legal system. Consider establishing an alibi in a murder case. If someone presents eyewitness testimony that the defendant was at the scene of the crime, while someone else testifies the defendant was somewhere else, we know that both statements cannot be true. Someone is wrong.
But you might say God is entirely different. We cannot limit Him to logic. However, if God is not consistent, then God can be one thing and something else. This brings into question what we know about God. Romans 8 says if God is for you, who could be against you? But could God be for you and against you at the same time and same way? Could God elect you and not elect you at the same time and in the same sense? If God can be inconsistent, where does this inconsistency stop?
Truth, by its very nature, is consistent. God is ever faithful to His people. Truth is a property of God and its consistency reflects the consistency of God's nature. Because God is consistent, truth is consistent. Since truth is consistent, there are no logical contradictions to truth.
That is why I am so insistent that truth must be non contradictory.
(John 15:15 ESV) No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
Q. 43. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in his revealing to the church, in all ages, by his Spirit and Word, in divers ways of administration, the whole will of God, in all things concerning their edification and salvation.
Monday, December 19, 2005
(Romans 1:3-4 ESV) concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
Q. 42. Why was our Mediator called Christ?
A. Our Mediator was called Christ, because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure; and so set apart, and fully furnished with all authority and ability, to execute the offices of prophet, priest, and king of his church, in the estate both of his humiliation and
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Part of the motivation of this is the question: Do Christians confess a doctrine about Christ that is contradictory? For instance, a popular statement about Jesus is that He is 100% God and 100% man. On the surface this sounds contradictory -- and perhaps it is. If it is contradictory, are we to accept it, or are we to reject it? What has the Church historically believed? What I hope to do is look at what the Church has confessed on its understanding of who Jesus is in the historical formulations of doctrine on the nature of Christ and draw some discussion and analysis of that to answer these questions.
This post will present two historical statements on the nature of Christ. The first is the Council of Chalcedon, which is the best summary of the natures of Christ. The second is taken from the Westminster Confession of Faith. As an elder (technically a ruling elder for purists who know this kind of stuff) in the PCA, I affirm and support the Westminster Confession's statement on Christ, although I think the Definition of Chalcedon provides a better summary.
The Definition of the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D)
Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.
The next statement is from the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF).
WCF -- Chapter 8
2. The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.
These are the two confessions I present for your consideration. Here is my claim: The statements made about Christ in these two confessions are not logically contradictory in the strictest meaning of contradiction. For review, a logical contradiction is where all necessary interpretations of a set of statements result in two logical propositions that are: (a) true and false, (b) true and false at the same time, (c) true and false in the same sense or relation.
It is important to note I am using Scripture and these historical statements about Christ, not anything else, as the basis for this analysis. If you wish to use other statements, such as Jesus is 100% God and 100% man, you need to either show it is a necessary inference from the two confessions, or we can deal with that statement as a seperate topic, understanding that the conclusions we draw from that do not necessarily reflect on the confessions or Scripture.
(Matthew 1:21 ESV) She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
Q. 41. Why was our Mediator called Jesus?
A. Our Mediator was called Jesus, because he saveth his people from their sins.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
(Hebrews 9:14 ESV) how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.
Friday, December 16, 2005
(Hebrews 4:15 ESV) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
(Hebrews 7:24-28 ESV) Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God’s justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
With the other things I write, I will write a series on logical reasoning.
I frequently come across statements that a particular viewpoint is inconsistent. This article discusses what it takes for a viewpoint to be inconsistent and how to prove it. I will then use a couple of examples to show how to apply this.
Inconsistent: A statement is inconsistent when all possible interpretations of that statement result in a direct or an indirect logical contradiction.
Direct Logical Contradiction: A direct logical contradiction is when you have a logical proposition that is asserted as true and false at the same time and in the same sense.
Indirect Logical Contradiction: An indirect logical contradiction is when applying logical transformations to a set of logical propositions results in derived logical propositions that are a direct logical contradiction.
There are some steps to follow in determining whether a statement is inconsistent. These are:
1. Derive all possible interpretations of that statement.
2. For each interpretation, is there either a direct logical contradiction or an indirect logical contradiction? To determine there is a contradiction, you must show there is a logical proposition that is:
a. It is asserted as both true and false.
b. It is asserted as both true and false at the same time.
c. It is true and false in the same sense. Words can have multiple meanings. You must be using the words in the same senses.
Let me give two examples.
Example 1: There is no such thing as absolute truth.
The statement is a universal denial to propositions that exist as unequivocally as being either true or false. This statement, "There is no such thing as absolute truth" is a statement unequivocally asserts itself as true. Thus, implied by this statement, there is one proposition that is absolutely true, itself. However, this statement asserts there are no such logical propositions, which is a contradiction. Therefore, the statement in example 1 is inconsistent.
Example 2: We are justified by faith alone, but the faith does not stand alone.
The statement asserts that it is faith that results in justification, but that this faith also results in good works. Some people assert this is a contradiction, because it makes works as a requirement to justification. We must look at the criteria for determining if this statement is inconsistent. We must ask the question, do all interpretations of example 2 result in contradictions? The answer is no, there is at least one interpretation that does not result in a contradiction. It is this: when faith occurs in an individual, two results happen, (a) the person is justified by God, (b) the person does good works. By the results of faith, we have evidence that the faith exists. Since we cannot see in the mind of God if a person is justified, we look at the things we can see, which is the life and works of a person. If the person has faith, there will be actions that follow. If there are no actions, then by modus tolens, there is no faith. Therefore works are not seen in example 2 as a cause of justification, but as a result of the faith that brings about justification. Since this is a reasonable possible interpretation, the statement of example 2 is not inconsistent.
(Luke 1:35 ESV) And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.
This is another foundational doctrine of Christianity. Jesus was born without sin. It means Jesus did not have a sin nature. Jesus is sometimes referred to as the second Adam, because, like Adam, Jesus was born without sin. Jesus then lived a life, facing temptation like Adam did, but yet not succumbing to sin.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
(John 1:1, 14, 18 ESV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. … No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
Q. 36. Who is the Mediator of the covenant of grace?
A. The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father, in the fullness of time became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.
This part of the catechism specifies who Jesus is. Jesus is not merely a human baby. Jesus is both God and man, and was so from the moment of His conception inside Mary.
Monday, December 12, 2005
(Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Q. 35. How is the covenant of grace administered under the New Testament?
A. Under the New Testament, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the same covenant of grace was and still is to be administered in the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper; in which grace and salvation are held forth in more fullness, evidence, and efficacy, to all nations.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
(Acts 3:19, 24 ESV) Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, … And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.
Q. 34. How was the covenant of grace administered under the Old Testament?
A. The covenant of grace was administered under the Old Testament, by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the Passover, and other types and ordinances, which did all foresignify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they then had full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.
One of the important things to understand about the Old Testament is the principle that Jesus taught: the whole of Scripture refers to Christ. All in the Old Testament, while they had the shadows and types of the priests and the sacrificial system that pointed to Christ as priest and sacrifice, they were saved by God's grace though faith in Christ
Saturday, December 10, 2005
(2 Corinthians 3:6-9 ESV) who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.
Q. 33. Was the covenant of grace always administered after one and the same manner?
A. The covenant of grace was not always administered after the same manner, but the administrations of it under the Old Testament were different from those under the New.
We live in a fortunate time. We get to look back and see what God had planned in order to redeem His people. Before Jesus came, people could only see shadows and outlines of their redemption. A lamb, a bull, a calf would be killed to cover the sins of the people who offered the animal, and each year a sacrifice was made for all of Israel. That pointed to Jesus and His sacrificial death on the cross to cover the sins of all of God's people.
Today, we see that they did point to Christ's sacrifice. Never again are the sacrifices to be instituted because Christ's sacrifice was complete. See my eschatology blog for futher comments.
Friday, December 09, 2005
(John 3:16, 36) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. … Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Q. 32. How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.
There is a saying, that when you approach the gates of heaven from the outside, it says, "Whosoever Will May Come." Once you pass through the gate of heaven and turn to look back, the gate says on the inside, "Chosen before the foundation of the world." Election is never to be thought of as a wall that keeps people out of heaven. All who desire God may come. But all who desire God and do come, those were the very people who God chose before the foundation of the world.
The delightful thing of election is that your salvation was not based on your whims, but on God's perfect choice. Your salvation is not based on your wobbly, weak, and fickle actions. Rather, it is based on God's steadfast faithfulness, love, and grace. This is delightful news and a wonderful present.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
(Galatians 3:16 ESV) Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
Q. 31. With whom was the covenant of grace made?
A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.
There is a theory that the elect refer to Christ, and all those who are "found in Him" at the end of the age, and that the elect are not "known" by God before the foundation of the world. It is true that Scripture refers to Christ as the Father's chosen one (Isaiah 42:1), but election and predestination are found in many places in Scripture where it speaks of individuals who are chosen by God. Further, election is not based on what God, looking down the corridor of time, sees what will happen, but it is based on God's own grace. All the elect are Christ's progeny.
This is part of the marvelous story of Christmas. God is there for His people. For those who want to know if they are part of God's people, the simple answer is come, place your faith in Christ. There you'll discover that God is the there for you, and was for you all along. You'll discover that Christ came to rescue you.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
(1 Thessalonians 5:9 ESV) For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Q. 30. Doth God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God doth not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivereth his elect out of it, and bringeth them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace.
In this advent series, we turn the corner from what we've done -- utter failure which results in misery, now and forever -- to what God has done. Out of our darkness comes the light of God's love for His people.
We cannot, in our best efforts, which is referred to as works in the catechism, do anything that merits God's attention. But God through His work of grace, a gift that none of us deserve in the slightest, bridges the enormous gulf between us.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
(Mark 9:43-48 ESV) And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’
Q. 29. What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
A. The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hellfire forever.
The wonder of Christmas is banal if we don't understand what is at stake with our lives. At best, eternal punishment is passé today, but in reality it is considered to be toxic doctrine left over the days of fundamentalist ignorance. The backdrop of Christmas is the holiness of God, the depravity of humanity, and the hopelessness of our condition. What is at stake is not a lump of coal left in our stocking of life by a benign, fatherly, Santa Clause God – but rather a very desperate, utterly bleak, eternal situation. We can’t make up for what we’ve done. Christmas speaks of how this holy God does make up for what we’ve done.
Monday, December 05, 2005
(Romans 1:21, 22, 28 ESV) For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, … And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?
A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
(Genesis 3:16-19 ESV) To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Q. 27. What misery did the fall bring upon mankind?
A. The fall brought upon mankind the loss of communion with God, his displeasure and curse; so as we are by nature children of wrath, bond slaves to Satan, and justly liable to all punishments in this world, and that which is to come.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
(John 3:6 ESV) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Q. 26. How is original sin conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity?
A. Original sin is conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as all that proceed from them in that way are conceived and born in sin.
This provides further backgound of our condition and our need of Christ.
Friday, December 02, 2005
(Romans 5:12, 19 ESV) Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned … For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
Q. 25. Wherein consisteth the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually; which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.
It was Adam and Eve’s first sin that ushered in our rebellion to God, with the resultant corruption, misery, and death. In our inner being we have an unbridled hatred against the true God. If left to our own desires, we would never come to God. This is not because we are in any way hindered by God or our natural surroundings, but because we do not desire to come to God. We rather put ourselves on the throne rather than God. We are born with this inclination, inherited from our first parents. And from this desire, we bring forth actual sin because we desire to sin.
Throughout the first part of the Bible, the Old Testament, the people of God, the Israelites, practiced many things that pointed to Jesus and his perfect life. Sacrifices of the best animals, without blemish and spot, as an atonement for sin pointed to Jesus’ perfect, obedient life and his atoning death, which would remove the guilt and offence of sin of all would belive in Christ Jesus.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly. (WCF 1.10)
The Confession states an important rule of biblical interpretation: the clearer portions of the Bible illuminate the less clear parts of the Bible. The Confession stated before that not all Scripture is alike in its clarity, but that the important essential doctrines are clear. Some parts of Scripture, which speak on important matters impinging on our faith, can be less clear than other parts.
An example is helpful. The Bible speaks of God’s grace though the believer’s faith as being necessary for our being declared righteous in God’s sight (for instance, Paul writes this in Romans). These passages are very clear. Other parts of the Bible speak of our works as being important in our salvation (James). Does that mean we are saved through faith and works? I think Martin Luther showed a good approach in understanding this. The Bible speaks that we are saved through God’s grace through faith alone, but our faith does not stand alone. In other words, the faith that results in our justification before God will also have fruit that follows, good works. It is the faith that saves us, but the good works is the evidence of that faith that saves us.
The Reformers called this principle of the clearer parts of Scripture interpreting the less clear parts, the analogy of faith.
We have many traditions in my family. One of these is an advent calendar during Christmas. Our advent calendar is a small box with 24 tiny drawers, large enough for some candy and a little note. We use Scripture passages, but I also like to include catechism questions.
(1 John 3:4 ESV) Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
Q. 24. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.
The real meaning of Christmas doesn’t make sense unless you get a much bigger picture why the baby Jesus was born. These questions and answers from the Westminster Larger Catechism provide such a background. Catechizing or teaching the family is an importing and great privilege for Christian parents. Teaching the catechism once is not sufficient, it needs to be taught over and over in the family. Children can learn many things, and catechisms can be taught with concepts that young children may not understand yet, but that memory can be recalled with increased understanding as each child grows.
Why was Jesus born? The reason goes back to our first parents, Adam and Eve. When they were first created, they were perfect and knew God without any hindrance unlike any of us today. God had placed them in a paradise, a garden where every need and desire was fulfilled. However, God forbid them from eating the fruit of one tree. Adam and Eve broke that command, falling from their perfect life. While God banished them from the garden, God also hinted at redemption in the future:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15, ESV)
The eternal Son of God would enter the world, he would be bruised while crushing Satan, redeeming many. Of all the problems in the world, the root cause is sin. Sin from Adam which we inherit, and our personal sin we commit. Christmas is the ultimate rescue story.
If we think we are not so sinful, we are deeply misguided and deluded. It goes way beyond obeying the surface reading of the Ten Commandments. The Reformers had a deep grasp of what it means to obey God. For instance, the command to have no other gods before us entails many things:
Q. 104. What are the duties required in the first commandment?
A. The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him,x and sorrowful when in anything he is offended; and walking humbly with him.
But wait, there is more:
Q. 105. What are the sins forbidden in the first commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the first commandment are, atheism, in
denying or not having a God; idolatry, in having or worshiping more gods than one, or any with or instead of the true God; the not having and avouching him for God, and our God; the omission or neglect of anything due to him, required in this commandment; ignorance, forgetfulness, misapprehensions, false opinions, unworthy and wicked thoughts of him; bold and curious searching into his secrets; all profaneness, hatred of God; self-love, self-seeking, and all other inordinate and immoderate setting of our mind, will, or affections upon other things, and taking them off from him in whole or in part; vain credulity, unbelief, heresy, misbelief, distrust, despair, incorrigibleness, and insensibleness under judgments, hardness of heart, pride, presumption, carnal security, tempting of God; using unlawful means, and trusting in lawful means; carnal delights and joys; corrupt, blind, and indiscreet zeal; lukewarmness, and deadness in the things of God; estranging ourselves, and apostatizing from God; praying, or giving any religious worship, to saints, angels, or any other creatures; all compacts and consulting with the devil, and hearkening to his suggestions; making men the lords of our faith and conscience; slighting and despising God and his commands; resisting and grieving of his Spirit, discontent and impatience at his dispensations, charging him foolishly for the evils he inflicts on us; and ascribing the praise of any good we either are, have, or can do, to fortune, idols, ourselves, or any other creature.
I don’t know about you, but I fall way short of what the first commandment requires about God. I am undone! And that is just the first commandment.
Part of our problem in the age we live in is that we do not realize what our duty is to God and how far we fall short of just even beginning to serve a tiny piece of God’s commands.
This is why Jesus came into the world. God has provided everything for us in Jesus.
A note on the Scripture quotations. Many Bible editions place limits on how much of their material can be published. The English Standard Bible provides a rather generous copy provisions.
Scripture quotations for this advent series are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.